So you want to start investing in the stock market. Before anything, you should ask yourself: “Why?”
If you have no prior experience buying stocks and you’re looking to make a quick buck, then you’re going about it all wrong. If you’re looking for a guaranteed return on your investment, you’re in for a rude awakening. If you can’t fathom the idea that your original investment could decrease, stop right there.
Expert investors know how to multiply their money in a short amount of time, but they’ve also spent years doing so…and lost a lot of money in the process. As an investing newbie, you simply want to have your money make more money so you can use that money at a later date.
Think of the stock market as a much better alternative to your savings account. Your savings account guarantees you a certain amount of interest on whatever money you’ve deposited within it. While investing in a stock or fund doesn’t guarantee you interest (or gains, as they’re called), it affords you the chance to make significantly more money than a bank could ever provide you.
With this in mind, how do you actually start investing? Better yet, what should you buy?
You can’t buy a stock without knowing what it is and how it works, so you need to know the basics.
A stock is a portion (or share) of ownership in a company. These shares are purchased on a stock exchange, an organization that regulates the stocks of many companies to make sure they’re following strict rules and are properly bought or sold. A broker or brokerage buys and sells stocks for you. Also, stocks go up and down in value based on the quantity of available shares (supply) and how many investors want to buy them (demand).
Once you know how investing stocks works, you’re ready to get started.
Instead of actually picking stocks yourself, you might want to think about letting experts do the picking for you. Helpful apps like Acorns and Stash let you pick the types of companies you want to invest in and what kind of portfolio you want. These companies then take your money and invest it based on your choices.
If you want to take less risks (because there’s always risk involve in investing), Acorns will give you a conservative portfolio with slow but steady gains. If you want to make more money but assume more risk, Acorns will set you up with a more aggressive portfolio. The app will assess your risk tolerance based on your income, demographic, and interests. They then invest in low-cost exchange-traded funds for you, while taking a small fee each month.
If you want to invest in specific industries, Stash lets you do just that. By choosing “technology,” for example, Stash will automatically invest in companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon on your behalf. If these stocks increase in value, your portfolio will increase in value. Like Acorns, they also take a small fee, but they require little to no knowledge of how the market works or what you should buy.
If saving for retirement is your goal, you could always invest in 401k and IRA plans.
If your job offers you a 401k, you should definitely allocate a portion of your earnings and invest in it. If you don’t have a 401k, you could invest in an IRA instead. These investment vehicles help you save for retirement while growing your money through individual investments chosen by financial advisors. You really just have to set them and forget them. If you don’t have either plans, you could always get one with your financial institution or through services like Betterment.
If you want to take the next step and buy individual stocks, see what Stash and Acorns are buying.
Portfolios in Stash and Acorns consist of individual stocks. Instead of having these services buy stocks for you, find out what they bought and buy them through your broker or brokerage. (We prefer Robinhood, as they charge no fees or commissions on transactions.) This saves you from having to pay monthly maintenance fees. It also teaches you how to buy and sell individual stocks by yourself, without the aid of apps and services.
If you want to branch out from there, see what other investors are talking about.
StockTwits, our parent site, is the best place to see which stocks investors are actually buying right now. It also measures investor sentiment, getting a feel for how investors think a stock will actually perform. While this sentiment doesn’t mean a stock will go up or down, it gives you an idea of what stocks are being bought and sold. It’s also a good place to look before you buy anything, just in case other investors feel you might not be making such a great buy.
You now know how to invest. Whether you’re invested in an app like Acorns or buying shares of Apple ($AAPL) and SPY ($SPY), you’re finally ready to have your money make more money. If you have any questions, feel free to email us here or hit us up on Twitter. We’re more than happy to help get you started!